‘Being seen, being heard’: A reflection from New York by Dr Simon Camby

Dr Simon Camby, Group Chief Education Officer, recently visited York Prep School in New York City. Simon reflects on a brilliant conversation with Grade 12 students; Cassius, Riley and Daron on the personalised approach which helps students feel seen and heard at York Prep. 

Situated in the Upper West Side of Manhattan just meters from Central Park, York Prep School is as close as it gets to a school in a big city. What image does this conjure in your mind?

This week I spent some time talking to students about their thoughts on their school, issues in the world and how they feel about moving into higher education. One conversation with Cassius, Riley and Daron provided real insight. They are in Grade 12, their final year at school before heading to college.

So much of what they all value about their school is surprisingly simple – being really known as individuals. This sense of being seen and being heard was palpable in the way that they describe their interactions over many years.

They all value that their relationships with staff in the school mean that they are known and understood. This brings value both to academic learning and to broader wellbeing. Being in a tight community means that people notice even small things.

‘If I was walking with my head down, someone would definitely stop me and check I was OK.’ (Riley)

‘Different teachers have helped me, even when things were tough, they were there for me.’ (Daron)

This personalised approach is something that all three of these fantastic students have recently valued in thinking through their future plans for higher education. They look back with a sense of wisdom beyond their years, now recognising that starting these conversations early (a hallmark of York Prep) meant they had plenty of time to test out the options and possibilities. Again, being seen as individuals, with guidance counsellors taking time to understand their aspirations and passions was valued by each of them.

This sense of being seen and heard connects to the strong sense of belonging and inclusion in the school. Each student was able to explain how they themselves or their friends experience this.

‘It is OK to be you, whatever that means. In our school, you will not be judged.’ (Daron)

Thinking bigger, Cassius, Riley and Daron are more than aware that they are about to step out of York Prep following graduation. They each talk about this with some anxiety. This is not so much about the practicalities of life but more about national and global concerns related to politics, equity and inclusion. This is balanced with some excitement about all that the future has to offer. Cassius summed this up neatly:

‘The support we get here at school calms my nerves when I think about the future.’ (Cassius)

My own personal reflection is that in a world that is evolving faster than ever with new challenges and innovations, we must not lose sight of the human connections that are meaningful and which ground us. Cassius, Riley and Daron skilfully reminded me that being seen and being heard in an authentic way has enabled them to thrive as remarkable young adults – each set on a pathway for success in a rapidly evolving world.

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JAN 31   /  
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